Quite a few pre-swing producers

by Mark Gabrish Conlan

Among the major record producers in the pre-swing era:

Fred Gaisberg: The person who, more than anyone else, invented the job of "record producer." He was the first person who not only signed artists and made sure they made the best records possible from a technical standpoint, but also deliberately shaped the performances in the studio to maximize the records' sales potential. His best-known artist signing was Enrico Caruso, but he was involved in the British His Master's Voice (HMV) pop records as well.

Frank Walker: Worked for Columbia Records from the 1920's to the 1940's, then took a job at MGM Records after Columbia's then-parent company, CBS, forced him out due to its mandatory retirement policy. Was heavily involved in making field recording trips. His best-known signings were Bessie Smith at Columbia in 1923 and Hank Williams at MGM in 1945.

Ralph Peer: Started at Okeh Records in the early 1920's and, like Walker, pioneered the recording of blues and country music. Formed his own music publishing company, Peer-Southern Music, and when he left Okeh for Victor in 1926 he agreed to produce records for Victor for free in return for publishing rights to original songs recorded by his artists. His best-known signings were Bennie Moten's band and the white country singers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Peer produced the famous Bristol, Tennessee field sessions in 1927 that are considered the beginning of the country-music industry.

Tommy Rockwell: A key figure in Bixiana because it was he who signed Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer to the Okeh label. The powerful, luminous sound quality of the Bix and Tram sessions for Okeh is a testament to Rockwell's skills in the studio.

Richard M. Jones: Was Okeh's man in Chicago the way Rockwell was in New York. His most famous artist signing was Louis Armstrong, and he also recorded many excellent records with blues singers, often writing songs for these sessions and occasionally playing on them.

Posted on Oct 30, 2017, 10:59 PM

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